Rising on the high moor among the mysterious tors of Dartmoor, Devon’s East and West Darts converge at Dartmeet before continuing a journey through wonderful scenery. Twenty miles later, the river exits the mainland at Dartmouth. In between, it serves up some quite amazing white water. As a result, the River Dart is held in high esteem with paddlers and it really does have something for everyone.
Possibly its best known and most popular section is The Loop. This is where a lot of keen paddlers have not only encountered their first taste of white water, but have been able to improve their skills to no end. Though this section is the make or break challenge for most, the Dart’s upper reaches near Newbridge are in a different league completely.
If you’re a relative newcomer to the sport, don’t expect this part to be a walk in the park. The river is in a deep gorge so it’s not uncommon for a paddle to take around 4 hours to complete. Though it’s gradual, this section is Mother Nature at full throttle, so caution and care are the watch words. However, if you thrive on adrenalin, you’ll not forget the experience.
And let’s not forget you’re in one of the most scenic parts of Devon. The Dart flows through lush meadows and rolling pasture, though you might not get the chance to appreciate them as you focus on the thrills and – hopefully not too many – spills. During its journey, the river passes Buckfastleigh, Buckfast Abbey and Staverton in the South Hams. It’s here you’ll find the 15th century Sea Trout Inn.
In an idyllic setting, you couldn’t ask for a better place to rest your head and recount your river experiences over locally produced and a la carte food. In winter it’s log fires and in summer, open air dining. A perfect base – with bed and breakfast included – for your river adventure. For details call 01803-762274.
Back on the Dart, the lower reaches are waiting with equal challenges of bends, eddies, rapids and drops. Sections known as the Washing Machine, Triple Falls and Lovers Leap. Appropriate names for parts of the river which guarantee some spills and fun runs. The latter being known as one of the lower section’s best rapids. Be prepared for a roller-coaster of a ride through all three, but you’ll emerge with a huge sense of achievement.
And a sense of achievement is what this sport is all about. On the River Dart, irrespective of water levels, you are guaranteed a wonderful kayaking experience, and that’s what really counts. For more information about the river, go to www.riverdartdevon.co.uk.